Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas - 6 weeks

My beautiful snuggly niece
I like having a happy secret. I want to tell everyone, but I also enjoy keeping it myself. I wonder if anyone will guess?

I drank no wine at the work Christmas do. But I did have the convenient excuse of driving down to Exeter immediately afterwards. No wine at the wedding last weekend, despite being surrounded with champagne glasses. But in a largely Christian crowd, that's not unusual. I'm missing out on brie and pate. We shopped for brandy butter, but the supermarket had run out, so there's no smidge of brandy-flavoured sweetness to decide whether or not to forgo.

My parents, sisters and brothers in law know. We opted not to tell grandparents and assorted uncles, aunts and cousins yet. Tomorrow we'll see Rob's family and we'll tell them. (My mother in law will be delighted, hugging me with tears in her eyes).

There's plenty of talk of babies. My niece is 5 weeks and a bit. She's getting lots of cuddles from grandparents and aunties and her great grandma, who is smitten with her. This time last year, she didn't exist. This time next year, all being well, she'll have a new cousin.

I was apprehensive about Christmas. The celebration of a special baby. The miracle of childless Elizabeth conceiving John. It was a struggle to focus on the hope and joy instead of my own pain as I listened to readings and sermons in the weeks leading up to it. Now, unexpectedly, there's only joy.

Mine is no holy baby. Just the ordinary miracle of conception. But I am grateful, for the sudden feeling of being included where I had felt excluded.

Monday, December 16, 2013

4 weeks, 5 days

Best Christmas present ever!

It's Monday morning. For once, I am not at work. Last week was super busy and I decided I needed a day at home. I'm tired and a little grumpy. I've been expecting my period since last Wednesday. I took a pregnancy test last Thursday, which was negative. and another on Saturday, which I think was negative. But then, I was so convinced it would be negative that I'm not sure I looked it at properly.

Today I decide to do another test, just to make sure.

I put the cap on the stick and place it on the side of the bath, determined not to look at it until 3 minutes are up. I distract myself with brushing my teeth, not daring to hope. This is just going to be another of those mysteriously long cycles.

3 minutes are up. I look.

Two pink lines

I can't quite believe it. Suddenly, the moment we've been trying to get to for months, almost 2 years, is here. Step 0: get pregnant. I'm overwhelmed with amazement and gratitude and happiness. I spend a little while just sitting with my happiness, hugging it to myself. Then I have to ring Rob.

He doesn't answer, of course. I email him. "Ring me!" He calls my mobile. "I'm pregnant!" "I thought you might be." We are happy. Finally.

I hug the secret to myself a little more while I eat breakfast. But I have to call my mum. Then my sisters. They're all happy. "You're what? Pregnant! Hooray!" "I knew when you rang that's what you'd say."

An overwhelmingly happy day. So glad I have the day at home to process and calm down a bit before I go back to work.

Step 0: get pregnant. Check!
Step 1: stay pregnant. Ongoing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

a confession

I like cheap clothes. I don't know if it's thrift or stinginess or a love of value for money, but I don't tend to spend very much money on clothes. The only time I have spent over £100 for a dress was my wedding dress. (A relative bargain for bridal wear - £140 on eBay for a shop sample, perhaps £40 in materials and alterations by me).  That probably explains the love of charity shopping more than an desire to be ethical. It's fun to rummage and find a bargain.

I've never really been fashionable. My personal style is quirkily feminine. I love dresses and skirts. I prefer natural fibres  - cotton, silk, linen as long as it’s smooth, wool if it’s not itchy - to synthetics.  I knit for myself – cardigans and jumpers. I’ve sewn a few things – dresses, jackets, skirts – though I’d somewhat out of practice. Right now I am mostly wearing layers of cotton jersey: leggings under short dresses and tunics or a t-shirt and skirt, with a wool cardigan or two for warmth. I like heels for smart occasions, but not for everyday. My current everyday shoes are DMs – a pink pair of shoes and a red pair of knee high boots.

I do appreciate fashion. I was an avid watcher of The Clothes Show as a child and to some extent I understand how catwalk fashion influences trickle down through high end designers to the high street. If money were no object, I would probably wear Vivienne Westwood. I fell for her 1990 Portrait collection - bustiers and velvet and oil paintings - and I love her fierce style. But I have never had the guts to walk in her shop on Conduit Street in London, even when I worked just round the corner from it. Catwalk fashion is like fine art. It's beautiful and strange and not for mere mortals like me.

So what do I spend money on? Right now, a lot of H&M basics in cotton jersey, dresses from Dorothy Perkins, Simply Be, New Look and Asos. My favourite purchases of this year have been a polka dot trench coat from Asos and those red knee high DMs. Both bought in the sale. That's the thing. I often can't bring myself to pay full price for clothes, especially dresses. T-shirts and things are pretty cheap anyway, but a good dress is at least £50, most of the time and that feels like a lot. (Shoes are a different story, but we'll come to that).

So where does that fit into a quest for ethical fashion? Ethical brands are expensive. This is to be expected. Cheap high street fashion relies on cheap materials and labour. Better materials and good working conditions cost more. On the other hand, ethical brands tend to produce higher quality garments that are designed to last. A £200 organic cotton dress ought to be constructed to a higher standard, wear better and last longer than a £15 high street brand designed for a quick disposable fix. This is a lesson I have learned in shoes. A good pair of expensive shoes is worth it in the long run, as it can be maintained and mended. I have boots I've owned for over 10 years. They're a bit shabby now, but serviceable (and would probably not be shabby had I taken better care of them).

So perhaps I should buy less and spend more on classic, beautifully made clothes that will last? I'm not so concerned with following every trend that I have to change my wardrobe every season, so why not go for slow fashion? But what size? Part of my reluctance to spend money on clothes comes from knowing how prone my body is to changing shape and size. In the last 6 years, I have bought clothes with size labels from 12 to 24. In an ideal world, my weight would be constant (and less than it is now) but even then, what of the effect of pregnancy, of illness, of age?

So, the conundrum remains. I shall continue to buy cheap things, I suspect. But I would like to change that, and make better choices. But what choices? Buy less? Buy better? Buy nothing? I am unsure.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ethical fashion for me?

My favourite style blogs have the occasional round of ‘Ethical fashion’ – usually a mixture of small, independent labels and Etsy sellers and the better known brands like People Tree. Today I read Lori's post on ethical dresses. As per usual, I found the selection frustrating. As I clicked through to the gorgeous frocks, every single beautiful printed cotton skirt and draped silk dress comes in a tiny range of sizes from super skinny to just about average, i.e. UK8 – UK16, maybe a UK18 if you’re very very lucky. This frustrates me.

I am a UK size 22. I have been thinner. I have been fatter. I’m currently working on reducing that number, but as I’m also trying to get pregnant, I suspect it’s going to be a little while before I can hope to be in what most clothing manufacturers consider 'normal' sizes*. I'm not going to go naked or clothed in sackcloth and ashes until I'm 'normal sized'. I would prefer to wear clothes, ones that fit me and that I enjoy. And I would like to have the chance to think and make choices about the ethics of the processes and practices behind the clothing I buy.

When I'm slimmer, I shop mostly in charity shops and vintage stores. I always buy underwear and shoes new, but for everything else, second hand is fine. Buying pre-owned is one way to shop ethically. Reuse prevents useable items from being thrown away, saves on energy used in manufacturing and transporting goods and in the case of charity shops, provides useful income for charities. But, if you're a larger than average size, your options are reduced. There are fewer things to find in second hand shops and you can forget buying vintage!

So, what does that leave me if I want to be ethical about buying clothes? Well, ethical can mean different things. To me it means that I would like the people who made the clothes to be paid a living wage and to work in safe and fair conditions. It means that I would like to minimise the amount of pollution and waste produced in the process of making and transporting clothes. That might mean organically produced fibres, but I'm not completely convinced that organic is synonymous with ethical. I'd like not to contribute more than necessary to carbon emissions and global warming. There are different aspects to consider. Is it more ethical to minimise transport miles by buying from solely UK-based manufacturers, where the whole process from plant or sheep to garment is carried out with as little travel as possible? Or is it better to support garment workers in Bangladesh or another developing country by buying from a company who ensure that they are properly paid and work in safe conditions? And how do I find out the processes involved in making that awesome dress or fantastic pair of shoes?

I don't know the answers yet, but I want to find out. I have moaned to others for too long. Let's see what I can discover and do. What do you think? Where do you shop?

I don’t like the phrase ‘plus-sized’ but it’s widely understood to mean anything above a size 16, so I’ll continue to use it. (I like zaftig, but it’s not a common word). 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

can we have cake now?

eyes on the food

These hopeful looking kiddiwinks were guests at a surprise baby shower for my sister HB last week. She's got about 3 weeks to go before her firstborn arrives. She lives in Exeter, but came to visit my parents in London last week and since she has lots of friends here too, our other sister Debs thought it would be fun have a baby shower for her.

And there were grown-ups and small children and cakes and scones. All good fun. :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

a cheering up dog


Today I am feeling in need of cheering up. Maybe this dog will help. He's a very sweet and bouncy puppy called Bailey. His coat is so soft. Amazingly, he sat still for 30 seconds while I took some pictures of him.

Anyone want to hire me to take pictures of their dog/cat/baby? I could do that all day long.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

big feet, little feet

big feet, little feet

I love this picture from a recent walk I took with my friend E and her small daughter E minor.

The focus isn't sharp and the angle's a bit off and maybe the negative space should be on the right instead of the left, but I love the feel of it. E minor loves standing, though she can't do it without help yet. Her mother held her up and let her stand on mummy's feet to see the ducks she loves.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Things my Granddad knows

Photo by Rob

The breeds of dogs and cows
The names of plants
The names of butterflies
The taste of wild rabbit and pigeon
The habits of birds
What a buzzard looks like in flight
What a Spitfire looks like
What a German bomber looks like as it flies over your back garden
What a German machine gun sounds like as the gunner spends spare bullets on your neighbours
How to be right handed, though if you're really a left-hander
How to mend aeroplane engines in the heat in India
What happens when you gorge yourself on bananas
How to make lumps of wood into beautiful things, even if his hands shake too much to do so now
What it's like to be a rural policeman
What it's like to buy a house and know you've only got £100 in the bank until next payday
What it's like to wait a long time for a child
What it's like to see your children succeed and fail and get hurt and get up again
What it's like to lose your wife
How to cook dinner for one
What it's like to be gradually frailer and more shaky and realise your brain and body are letting you down
The names and concerns of his children
The names and concerns of his grandchildren and their partners
The names and smiles of his great-grandchildren
The love of his family

Sunday, September 01, 2013

summer haze


Goodness, is it September already? Where did the summer go? Well, it's still here really, but somehow, even without kids it's hard to lose the feeling of a new school year beginning.

We're busy and happy and taking plenty of photographs. Yesterday we took over 4000, but that's a story for another day. Life this week feels a little like this photo - a bit blurred but full of colour and movement.

This is lavender in my parents' garden in Walthamstow. I went down to London on Wednesday and paid them a visit. My sister and her cute kids were there too and we had fun in the sunny garden. It's a very small patch (well, probably standard for London) but in the summer it's always full of plants growing crazily well, making it a mini jungle.

Late summer in my parents's garden is a green tangle of plants, the smell of lavender and rosemary and the taste of sun-warmed blackberries, straight off the bush. Sophia and JJ and I looked for frogs in the pond (I saw some but I couldn't get the littles to look hard enough). JJ threw things in the pond and ate too many blackberries until he had to be dragged away from the bushes. Then he had fun filling a toy jeep with grass and driving it into corners, getting covered in soil and blackberry juice in the process.

I like summer. Long may it continue.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

babies babies babies

for the unborn

Babies are on my mind rather a lot at the moment. The one my little sister HB is having in November; the future king born on Monday; the one I'd like to have.

This was on the pavement in the middle of Champ de Mars, near the Eiffel Tower. No other context, but I imagine it came from a pro-life demonstration. Just a snap, but I like the graphic simplicity of the drawing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

dog tired

dog tired

It's been pretty hot (ok, very hot) lately and this is how I feel on hot days.

Fortunately I can flop on a bed, not hard paving and I don't have to get dragged around the city by my human. 

We took a lot of dog photos in Paris. There are lots of dogs who live there (I only saw one cat) and they all need walks. No-one cleans up after them though. :(

Monday, July 22, 2013

on the pavement


This isn't a recent image and it predates our acquisition of 2 Nikon DSLRs and a huge number of lenses, but it's one of my favourite pictures of Sophia.

This was last summer at the Jubilee street party in my parents' road. The road was blocked off and filled with tables and chairs, music and people dancing. There were chalks and lots of kids (and grown-ups too) making pictures on the road. Sophia was about 2 and a half. About old enough to enjoy the bouncy castle and tentatively join in with the games of the other little girls. They made a den under under one of the tables and sat it in doing drawing with felt tips.

Here Sophia is carefully watching what the other girls and doing and getting up the courage to go and join in.

I like the chalk drawing background and the way the adult in the picture is just a pair of legs. I also like the blues - the paper, her dress, the chalk and the way they contrast with her skin. The three-quarters profile means you can see her gorgeous long eyelashes and her watchful expression.

I think there's a little too much space to the right hand side. It would be good to be a little lower so the picture is in Sophia's space rather than from above. Would also be good to have a sense in the photo of what it is she's looking at.

what they doing?

I think the angle in this one is a little more dynamic, though again it's from above and there's no sense of what she's looking at. It's more colourful (the rainbow she's sitting on, echoed in the felt tips).  I'm not sure which I prefer.

Neither image is perfect, but I think for what' are basically snaps on a compact camera, they're OK. What do you think?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

a new way of seeing

I haven't been blogging much, but I have been doing a lot of this.

Rob at work

This is how I see Rob most of the time when we're out and about. We spent 11 days in Paris last month and he spent most of his time with a camera permanently attached to his eye. (When he wasn't having intense debates with his friend Mathieu, that is). And I have a camera too.

I have hundred of images, all taken in the last year or so, so I'm going to attempt to reboot the blog by showing you some of them and telling you a little about how each one came to be.

Monday, May 06, 2013

BEDM - fail

I am giving up on blogging every day in May. I know, only day 6, that's a bit pathetic. But I'm tired and not organised enough. Sorry.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

BEDM - Fit and Healthy

Fit and healthy is something I am really not. :(

Which is a cop-out of a post to write at 10.15pm. I will elaborate tomorrow.

This is a post for Rosalilium's Blog Every Day in May.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

BEDM - Five Favourite Blogs

I'm out for the day at the zoo, but here are five of my faves:

Cakies: Rubyellen blogs about her life with four small daughters in California. She has much beautiful taste and style. I like the fact she's honest about her life, trying to present the not-so presentable bits as well as gorgeous interiors and crafts.

The Yarn Harlot: One of the best known knit bloggers. Stephanie is funny and wise about knitting and life.

Light and Momentary: I've been reading Jaime's blog since before it was this blog. I'm in awe of how she does life with 4 sons, 1 daughter, 1 husband and an academic career.

Domestic Sluttery: Good fun, lifestyle blogging. My daily dose of pretty things to want. I appreciate their regular round ups of fashion for tall and plus size girls.

It's my Life: I couldn't make a list of favourites without my lovely sister Debs. (My other sister Hannah has a blog, but I can't remember when she last wrote on it, and neither can she, I think. Blog again, HB!). Go there for cute pictures and stories about my nephew and niece. They're awesome!

What are your favourite blogs?

This is a post for Rosalilium's Blog Every Day in May.

Friday, May 03, 2013

BEDM - A day in the life

This is an atypical Friday for me. Normally I'm at work, but it's been a tiring week and I had some spare flexi hours, so I decided to take Friday off to relax and recuperate.

I meant to sleep in, but ended up waking around 9. We've got black out curtains in the bedroom, making it every dark. That means we don't wake up too early, but it does mean I can't see what the weather's like without getting out of bed. I guess that's not a huge hardship. :) Breakfast was muesli with milk, yogurt and banana and a cup of freshly made coffee. I either make coffee with my espresso machine or an Aeropress. The expresso machine isn't working properly at the moment - the control for the steam wand stopped working and it's waiting for a new one. That means the Aeropress gets more use as there doesn't seem much point firing up the machine if there's no frothy milk. :(

This morning there was a big pile of washing up to do. Rob's been doing most of the washing up lately, but we were both tired last night so it didn't get done. I listened to the end of Woman's Hour and the serial and washed up. We've just had a new oven put in. The old one was noisy and didn't work well. It was a fan oven, but didn't heat evenly and the noise! Now we have a shiny new Bosch oven. We split the cost with our landlords. The new oven recommends you turn it on for an hour at full power before using it for the first time, so I did. It's so quiet! It smells of new metal and chemicals.

Our landlord came round to fix a new doorstop for the front door. The old one is positioned such that it doesn't stop the door banging into the fuse box which is mounted on the wall above the doorstop. Bad planning by someone. The flat's full of things like that - little details that the builders and fitters didn't do as well as they could have done.Still, it's a roof and walls and it's home. I decided to bake a cake to christen the new oven. This chocolate cake recipe looked good. So I mixed and scraped and into the oven it goes. I've been making dough for dumplings. Rob's been asking for Chinese dumplings since we watched this video of Matt Granger making dumplings. I intended to buy some dumpling wrappers from one of the Chinese food shops on Mill Road, but googling around, it looks pretty easy to make your own, if fiddly. So, dumpling wrappers, 20 of them, are waiting on a plate in the fridge for me to fill them with pork mince.

While the cake's in the oven, I went to the Co-op for more eggs, veg to stir fry with the dumplings, bananas and a few other bits and pieces. It's beautifully sunny. I wore sandals for the first time this year. I loved the feeling of cycling in the sunshine. The Co-op's not busy and I'm soon back again. The cake isn't quite done. I put some knitted socks and winter accessories that need washing in a bowl of water and Eucalan to soak. I eat rolls from the Co-op with Boursin.

Now lunch is done, the cake is cooked, the wet and clean socks and things are hanging on an airer. I need to wash up again, fill the dumplings. Shall I make a batch of cupcakes? It seems I'm having a very domestic day. Though perhaps what I really need to do is nap. Back to finish this off later I think.

Edited at 2030: So, I finished off my dumplings. The first few looked terrible, but they got better. I washed up again. Rob came home, I cooked the dumplings, and served them with stir-fried vegetables. The verdict? Well done for making them, but the wrappers are too thick, the ratio of meat to wrapper is wrong. So, more work needed. Maybe I'll go hunting for pre-made dumping wrappers and try again.

We're watching Lost together in the evenings. Rob watched it when it was first broadcast, but I haven't seen it before. We're about 8 episodes into Season 2. No spoilers please! Our Lost watching was interrupted by spotting a small bird picking shoots off the curry plant in our window box. It looks pretty. (I identified it as a goldfinch with some help from the internets). It flew off, but a few minutes later, it came back. There followed a time of Rob sitting on the sofa with his camera, waiting for it to come back and pose nicely for him. It did return, but alas, the camera settings were wrong and the pictures he got look like "an 80s webcam" according to him. Oh well. Maybe it will come back again.

Since then, I've been pottering at processing photos and Rob's been watching Youtube videos about computer games, from the sounds coming from the other room. A fairly typical evening. In a bit, I think I'll have a bath and go to bed early. We're going to the Zoo tomorrow and I'd like to be awake to enjoy it.

This is a post for Rosalilium's Blog Every Day in May.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

BEDM - Spring is here!

At last! It's felt like a long winter. I always struggle in the darkness and cold of winter, but this last one seemed worse than I remember. Lights helped. I have a Philips sunrise alarm clock which gradually lights up the room with a warm sunrise glow. I also have a small bright light box which I used ever morning at breakfast. These two things made a difference, more difference than I expected, in enabling me to get up each day and get going.

But in truth, there's nothing like the real warmth and light of spring sunshine. Mornings and evenings are lighter now and it lifts my mood enormously. I love watching the flowers and trees bursting into life. Now is the time of magnolia, cherry blossom, daffodils and tulips. Of course, with the blossom comes hayfever for me. I'm allergic to tree pollen, I think and sneeze from March to May. It could be worse. The itchy eyes and streaming nose are easily treated with Loratadine and they're gone by the summer.

Spring is a time of hope and I'm trying to be hopeful in a few things right now. It's not easy, but Spring reminds me to hope.

This is a post for Rosalilium's Blog Every Day in May.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

BEDM - 5 lines

Five lines makes me think of a musical stave. I learned to read music at school, learning to play the recorder and the cello; the treble and the bass clef. Later, I had piano lessons and attempted to read and play both at once. It's hard. The left hand and the right moving independently, producing sounds to complement one another.

The dots and sticks are so familiar to me, I forget I had to learn them. I still use them, now to sing from, though my sight-singing isn't great. I suspect I mostly learn tunes by ear, but the music in front of me is a good reminder when I can't remember the tune properly.

I don't know where this is going. My writing muscles are long unused and my blogging skills are rusty. Still, that's the point of using 31 days of prompts. Getting back in the habit.

This is a post for Rosalilium's Blog Every Day in May.

Friday, April 26, 2013


All right then. I have not blogged in ages, but I'd like to get back to it. Elizabeth of Rosalilium set up a Blog every day in May thingy and I signed up. So let's see how it goes.